In September 2004 I cancelled my Sprint PCS cell phone service after being a customer since August 2000. I cancelled it in order to save for a trip to Europe, but that's really just an ancillary concern. There was a past-due balance and upon calling their customer ''service'' department, I paid the bill over the phone with a man who I believe may have been named Greg, but after 16 months I can't honestly be sure. I do remember he was an African-American guy, but that hardly helps to narrow down the possibilities in a company so large.. When he said the account was current I asked if it could be cancelled. He assured me that it would be.
That was the last I heard from them. The next morning I checked the account online and it was unable to access it; I received no further bills nor communications from Sprint. Naturally, I considered the matter closed and finished. Perhaps that was a mistake.
In January or February (I'll have to wait until I get back to my office to know the exact date) I received a collection notice for some ~$800 for a past-due balance. Como se what the fuck? I wrote a letter to the collection agency explaining that the account was cancelled in September and that I had no records of a debt of any kind. I called them and they closed the collection account.
Today, before I left, I checked my mail. There was a collection notice from a different collection agency, this time for $589.92. They say, however, they'd be ''generous'' and offer ''a good will gesture'' (Shouldn't that be a good-will gesture? tut tut tut) and knock $147.48 off the amount I supposedly owe and lower it to a ''mere'' $442.44.
The first thing that I noticed was the $200 difference. Where did that large amount go? Where did this new mystery amount come into being?
- Confused, I called the collection agency and thus the saga began. Mind you, this is all happening while driving from the Atlanta airport here to Jackson's dad's house in Stone Mountain.
- The woman with whom I spoke at the agency was very polite and professional and understood my confusion. She said that Sprint had not given her any any information other than the amount due and the allowance for a 25% reduction. She suggested that I contact Sprint and try to get an answer and that I should feel free to contact her again tomorrow morning if I got it resolved. Very nice lady, so I thanked her for her time and cheerfully, but still confused, ended our call. At least I had a starting point from which to begin the Quest Of Futility.
- Sprint's call centre was my next phone call. Of course, I was routed to a call centre in India (Bangalor would be the best bet for location, statistically speaking, as though anyone cares about that). ''Tammy'' answered my call. Bless her heart, what kind of crazy rule is that, changing your name for a job? If her name is truly Tammy then mine is Clark Kent, but whatever. She asked me why I was calling, ''existing customer'' or ''want to be a new customer.'' After explaining twice why I was calling, she transferred me to a local customer ''service'' center here in the States. I got to speak with ''Jermain'' over a horrible connection after being routed from an 800 number in India to an 800 number in the States. He gave me a number to call and said to call him back. No problem.
- Problem. The number he gave me required a valid Sprint phone number. I'm sorry, 16 months later I don't remember the number; even if I could, it wouldn't be valid.
- I started over. This time I got ''Robert James''. Now, I pride myself on being able to understand just about anyone no matter how thick their accent, but this guy was a true challenge -- and me for him apparently. He finally understood what I wanted but transferred me to Nextel's collection people. They couldn't access the account and put me on hold after offering to transfer me to Sprint. Then they just hung up.
- Now I'm angry -- not that I was happy after the first two failures, but okay, here we go again.
- I think I got a call center in the US the next time because IMatthew of Southern California answered and after hearing, now the third recitation, my problem, kept me on the line until he could conference in Rajj/Ranj (?) in Sprint's collection department. This new person made me explain the entire story twice before telling me that he couldn't help me and placed me on hold off and on about three or four times during the telling of it. I asked if I could please speak with the person with whom he was conferencing when he put me on hold, and he answered, ''Sure, hang on a second.''
- Then he hung up after making me listen to dreadful semi-up-tempo Muzak for about 5 minutes. I actually heard him pick up the phone, listen to me say ''Hello?'', grunt, and hang up.
- Okay, now I'm well and truly angry. We arrive at Jackson's dad's house and the first thing he asks is ''Michael, who are you about to hurt?'' I like that man, observent. I told him the story and he rolled his eyes and wished me luck.
- Call number 4: This time I didn't bother to get the lady's name and she transferred me to the same 800 number that Jermain had given me. No Sprint phone number, so the call just hung up after I tried a few old phone numbers of mine trying in vain to remember which it was.
- Call number 5: I'm getting increasingly angry and luckily, a woman named Catherine answered this time and seemed very concerned that the first four calls had ended in someone hanging up on me. At least she was helpful and again conferenced in a woman named, I kid you not, Princess, whom I belive may have been a collections supervisor of some nature. Princess listened to my story, the full thing, before telling me that I'd have to talk to some specalised collections department. I didn't catch the department's formal title. I didn't care at this point; I just wanted someone that could access the information.
- Princess transferred me to Kenisha and gave me the Special Collections department's number ''just in case we get disconnected.'' Cue ominous foreshadowing. I told my tale again to this Kenisha person, or at least I attempted to as it was rather difficult due to her constant rude interruptions. I have no idea how I remained calm and not yell at anyone. My stomach was clenching and I was ready to throw up in frustation and anger.
- If there's one thing I have a knack for remembering, it's conversations and language. The following conversation took place with her becoming increasingly rude and me calming myself by biting my finger to make sure I didn't give them any reason to flag me as abusive or belligerant, or some other bullshit reason to hang up on me again.
- Bring it, bitch.
When she finally accessed some kind of data it seemed to be woefully incomplete. She did show where I'd brought the account current in September '04, but said that I didn't cancel the account until December '04. Then, when I told her that I didn't even call in December, seeing as how I was out of the country and all, she said that the account must have just been suspended again for non-payment.
Me: ''But I cancelled the account. Why are there charges?''
Her: ''You didn't cancel the account.''
Me: ''Yes, I did. The gentleman with whom I spoke took the payment, said the account was cancelled, and disabled the internet access to the account. I received no further written communications from Sprint after that either.''
Her: ''Well, then you must owe for breaking your contract on both lines. That means you owe $150 for each line for the early termination fee. You had a two-year contract.''
Me: ''How can that possibly be accurate? I was a customer for four years. The contract was nullified in 2002 by that reasoning.''
Her: ''No, it says you broke the contract and didn't pay the early termination fee.''
Me: ''Okay, where is the remaining $289.92 coming from then?''
Her: ''That's your past due balance.''
Me: ''You just confirmed that I brought the account current in September! I don't ... how are you coming up with this information?''
Her: ''Look SIR! I can't help you. I don't have any information. You have to call whatever collection angency contacted you.''
Me: ''I did. She said she had only the amount Sprint says is due and that I should contact you for any details.''
Her: ''I DON'T have ANY details! I just told you. Call them.''
Me: ''Ma'am, you've been giving me a lot of conflicting information. What's the name of the vice-president in charge of collections, customer service, or consumer affairs?''
Her: ''I can't give you any names.''
Me: ''Then can I speak with a manager?''
Her: ''I just can't give you a manager's name. There are a LOT OF THEM!''
Me: ''Okay, why are you yelling? Can I just speak with a manager please?''
Her: ''Which one? I said there are a LOT of them.''
Me: ''If you don't give me a name, I can't request a particular manager, now can I? Just please, please, please let me speak to whatever manager may be on duty tonight. Okay? I'm asking nicely.''
Her: ''Fine then. Hold!''
At this point I am beyond incensed. I'm losing any capacity to verbalise. Language skills I've developed over the past nearly 30 years have left me. I've become apopleptic.
I hear the phone click on and off a great number of times; after 5 pseudo-transfers where I could hear someone breathing on the other end. At each click I asked, ''Hello? Hello?'' As soon as I indicated my desperate single word that I could utter, someone put me back on hold. This happend for about 10 minutes, my patience waning further and further each second. Then guess what happened?
The manager answered? No. I was transferred back to Bangalore? No.
The phone clicked and I heard a female voice say, ''I can't talk to you.'' And hung up. She hung the phone the fuck up.
My hands were shaking I was so angry. Thankfully when I threw my mobile phone it hit the top of the recliner which caused a ricochet onto the couch rather than shattering against a wall. During the next five minutes were spent regaining my ability to use my native language. Mind you, they started out sounding something like, The CUNT! BITCH! FUCK, FUCK, FUCKING BITCH! I'M GOING ... She ... I ... She ... Oh HELL no she just did NOT hang up on ME! Who the fuck does she think she is? You know, I try to be a patient man. I do, I really do. But I'm going to kick her in the spleen if I ever meet her.
I went to the website and got the corporate headquarters' address and phone number. I'll be calling tomorrow to try to find out the name of the person ultimately at the top of the Pyramid of Uselessness for the collections or customer service or both if they're not combined. I can't remember the date of the letter I wrote to the first collection agency that cancelled the collection attempt, but I have a copy of the letter on my hard-drive at work. I'm going to write a letter and have some friends help me edit it because I'm sure it's going to come off caustic and violent.
I will also be attaching all of my lovey little titles and explaining the reasons for my going to Europe. 'Working with Doctors Without Borders in Eastern Europe and former Soviet bloc nations' might make them actually listen.
A girl at work had a similar problem and her father, a doctor, wrote a letter to the VP at Cingular and he fixed the problem immediately. Now, if I really do owe a payment for September that the guy back in September '04 just missed because of a billing cycle or something, I'll pay it, fine. I would owe that. These other amounts are incorrect. In light of the utter contempt that Kenisha person showed me I also want a written apology from some middle-aged executive in a bad suit who thinks he looks good.
If I don't get a reply ... well, there's a reason all my friends are professionals. There's more than one attorney in the bunch; Hell, there are three. We can go to court and with such a small amount, I'll be in small claims where Kim's old professor (who so has a crush on her) sits on the bench. I'll be filing a counter-suit for the statutory maximum here in Arkansas for the harrassment and unprofessional behaviour and untimely notification and ... what else? Either the problem is resolved or Karen, my investigative reporter friend, may be convinced to do a short piece about the story. I have the number of their local public relations department representative for the Mid-South. I'm relatively sure they'll love the publicity. Cell phone companies are notorious for jerking people around like this. A story about one customer will bring others out of the woodwork. Say, ''Hello, Mr. Class Action Lawsuit.''
I hope the Spirit of Christmas teabags them.